Archive for September, 2009

Yes, I did make it to LA (if you were worried, you should probably be following my Twitter account — I posted way too much about the trip over there). I did take some video, and hopefully I’ll have some time to post it soon, but in the meantime, here’s a Modern World.

-Workers of the World, meet your robot replacements. Kiva Systems is developing a warehouse full of giant Roombas designed to move inventory around quickly and efficiently.
-Robin Baumgarten developed this Mario AI for a recent competition. Make sure to watch the video.
-Our brains actually encourage us to waste time using Google, Wikipedia, and Twitter.
-OKCupid breaks down what gets replies and what doesn’t on their dating site.
-Finally, Rhino Records isn’t quite dead, but who knows what we’re losing in the digital transition.

 
icon for podpress  The Modern World episode 11: Play Now | Play in Popup

I was born in St. Louis. In high school, I played football, and because I’d watched it on television ever since I was a little kid, I picked it up immediately. I went All State my junior and senior years in high school, played third string for Notre Dame, and tried out three years in a row with the Colts, never once making it on to the team.

I did stay in Indianapolis, though — I decided that I wanted to be a teacher instead, and now spend my days teaching science to high schoolers and coaching the varsity team in the evenings.

*****

I was born in St. Louis, and in high school, though I played football for a while, I wasn’t good enough at it to continue past my junior year. Instead, I joined the theater department, and lit up the stage with my acting. Out of high school, I felt a need to get away, to get up and into the biggest place I could go, so I went straight to New York City and starting studying acting and theater as an undergrad at NYU.

I’m still acting — I’ve had a few minor parts in movies, but what I’m really proud of is the theatre company that I put together with a few of my former classmates. We’ve grown immensely in the seven years since we started up, with great reviews and critical acclaim not just from the New York scene, but around the world. A friend of mine and I are thinking of starting a theater school in our space, a place where we can teach up and coming actors what we’ve figured out over the years.

And in the meantime, I love New York — the autumn breezes, the taxi rides uptown and downtown, the rooftop parties on summer evenings. I haven’t been back to St. Louis since.

*****

I was born in St. Louis, and in high school, I made a fool of myself in football for a few years, and then went and worked in the theater department, putting together the sets and lights with my friends (while we smoked pot during breaks). I had an amazing time, but the teachers never really liked me, my grades were average, and what mattered most to me was having fun.

After graduation, I briefly thought about going away, but the majority of my classmates went to Mizzou, so that’s where I went as well. Officially, I studied finance, but mostly, I studied how much I could party before a big test, and how much BS I could make up while still getting laid. My teachers still didn’t like me, but they respected me, in a way — respected the fact that while they had worked for a long time and only made it as far as teaching in a midstate college, I was doing whatever I wanted and passing right on by.

I married my last college girlfriend, and got a job at a bank in St. Peters where my friend’s dad worked. We bought a house and had two kids — I make enough money for her to stay home with them, but sometimes I have to work late (and my boss is an ass). I’d like to think that someday I’ll manage the branch.

*****

I was born in St. Louis. In high school, I did theater tech — lighting, sound, stage design. As soon as I graduated, I wanted out of the Midwest — I headed to a small college in the Northeast and studied broadcasting and media for four years. After that my leads weren’t what I’d expected, so I headed home for a few years and started working at a Gamestop.

I dreamed of moving to Chicago — I still longed to be out of St. Louis and in the big city. But a few months before I could make that a reality, my manager at Gamestop told me about a corporate opening, a district manager position, overseeing all of the retail stores in the city (he said he would have wanted it, but his family was making him move out west). It was a lame job — doing miserable work, overseeing miserable people — but it paid well, better than I would have ever expected to make in the broadcasting jobs I was looking at. After a lot of deliberation, I took it, bought a house in the suburbs, and spent my days driving from retail store to retail store, checking inventory and prices.

******

I was born in St. Louis. I worked in the technical side of my high school theater’s tech department — designing lights and sound, creating sets. After high school, I found an interest in broadcasting, specifically in radio, and headed to a small college in the Northeast to study that. I graduated easily, and then moved back to St. Louis to plan what to do next: I wanted to be on the air somewhere, maybe Chicago. I headed up to the Windy City a few times to look at apartments, but also thought about staying closer to home, closer to my family and the friends I still had.

I applied at a few smaller radio stations in the area — Southern Illinois, Cape Girardeau, St. Charles. At an interview in Rolla, a man with a big cowboy hat and a southern drawl, the owner of the station, asked me why I’d ever want to be in an industry like radio. I said I’d grown up with it, that I loved listening and that it was a media that could evoke feelings the way television and print never bothered to do any more.

He must have liked my answer — he and the program manager hired me on the spot to work the afternoon shift. 1,000 watts, a potential audience of just under a million. Within a few years I worked my way up to the morning shift, and then became a local celebrity — as much of a celebrity as you can be in Rolla, MO. I attended car dealership openings, I gave away Barry Manilow tickets, I ran “hands on a hot rod” contests, I interviewed country stars playing the annual fair nearby.

I’ve moved stations twice (once away from the station I started at, and once back), but I’ve been doing it so long now that callers call me just to say hi, and local businesses seek me out for on-air promos. I dream of the big city sometimes, but I can go over to Earl’s Rib House and eat free — why would I want to leave that?

*****

I was born in St. Louis. In high school, I tech directed a few shows, and even designed some lighting schemes and sound cues myself. In college, I studied broadcasting, radio specifically. I liked St. Louis (and that’s why I moved back there right after I graduated from college), but I’ve always liked the big city better, and so as soon as I found an apartment to stay in, I moved up to Chicago’s west side.

In Chicago, I felt myself move away from radio — some people were doing the right thing, but too much of it was cliche and boring. Instead, I fell in with the great writing tradition of the city — I started writing on my own, and then for free, and then for pay. I worked off hours as a freelancer, and then on hours. I wrote a book, got it published, and sales were spectacularly low. I wrote another book, got it published too (though it was surprisingly much harder to do the second time), and it did pretty well — I went on a regional book tour, I appeared on a few TV and radio stations. I was asked to ghostwrite a book, and did, and was then asked to ghostwrite some more, and did again.

I do like Chicago — the lake, the winters, the El. It’s a good town to live in as a writer, with a good community of people crafting words right alongside you. I’ve got a reputation here, I’ve got a history here, and I’m happy, spending my days looking out at the skyline and putting one word after another, cobbling out a voice and a place for myself.

*****

I was born in St. Louis. In high school, I played football for a few years, and then decided I was more of a theater person. I worked hard, and was fascinated with the tech of it — how you could shine lights on the stage in a certain color and play sounds at the same time, and evoke any number of unexplainable feelings. After school, I left St. Louis, went to upstate New York, and studied broadcasting — I partied, I practiced, I thought, and I learned. And eventually, I graduated.

Back at home, I looked for radio jobs in the Midwest, but none of them ever materialized. The big city called, I chanced on a good roommate and a great apartment, and made my way to Chicago. Once there, I poked around, and landed on writing as something I both could and wanted to do. I did it for myself, for someone else, and then eventually for everyone. I liked Chicago — the pizza’s great, the people are nice, and even when the wind blows cold down through the canyons of steel and glass, you can feel the hum of strong, interesting people working all around you.

But there’s something else, something out west, that I need to find. After six years here, I’ve finally wrapped up my leases, closed my accounts, packed my belongings. And tomorrow, I’ll rent a truck, I’ll fill it with everything I have, and I’ll go west. I have no idea if it’s the right decision, or if it’s the thing to do to get what I want — truthfully, though it’s pretty shameful to admit, I still haven’t quite figured out what that is anyway.

But it’s the decision I’m making, one of many in a long line. And all of the decisions I’ve made so far have brought me here, past all of the possible lives I could have lived and all of the corners I could have turned to go elsewhere.

*****

I was born in St. Louis. Who knows what I’ll do next?

Almost ever since I first moved to Chicago, I have wanted to go and visit this restaurant called Moto here in town. It’s run by a chef named Homaru Cantu, and his ideas on food and how you make it are so groundbreaking that people come from all over the world to check this place out. He specializes in cooking food in the strangest ways — he uses lasers and liquid nitrogen to cook, he developed a “special box,” patent pending, that will cook fish right at your table, and he loves printing flavors on edible paper. The whole restaurant is a weird mix of science, food, and art that has fascinated me, as I said, almost since I first moved here.

The problem, though, is that it’s not cheap — no once-in-a-lifetime experience ever is. You go and order a ten course meal (you don’t order food, they just bring you whatever they’re cooking up that day), and then at the end of the meal it’s over a hundred dollars a person. So when my friend Jason suggested a few weeks ago that I finally go with him before I leave town this week to move to LA, I balked. But he made me, and after he and our friend Joanna went to have a 10 course dinner, it turned out to be more than worth it: it’s one of the tastiest, most thoughtful, and best meals I’ve ever had.

And I took notes, just so I could share the experience with you, dear reader. These pictures are courtesy of Joanna — she’s a professional photographer, so that is why they’re so awesome. The first thing they brought us was actually the menu:

Our menu (the list of the ten courses they were going to serve us that evening) was actually printed on a very thin slice of garlic bread — in the bottom of the dish was a small piece of garlic cooked in a butter vinagrette and an asparagus puree. The garlic was incredibly soft and warm — Jason remarked that they had to cook the garlic for a long time to get it that way.

I was fascinated, too, by the asparagus puree — it was so smooth and liquidy, yet it was very much asparagus. The combined feel of the menu itself was the perfect appetizer: an interesting mix of tastes that only got you ready for what was coming.

SCRAMBLED & muffin

The first actual course was this strange faked breakfast. One of the things they do at Moto, we quickly discovered, was play with expectations of what you thought things would taste like by making one kind of food look entirely like another. From the left, this appeared to be an english muffin, a group of scrambled eggs, and a tater tot. But it wasn’t at all: the eggs were actually a solidified lemon vinagrette with tomatoes and onions, no chicken involved. The “tater tot” was a piece of shrimp (perfectly cooked — I’m not even a huge fan of shrimp but it was incredibly tasty, and cooked exactly right all the way through), and the “english muffin” was the most interesting thing — a piece of puffed garlic with cooked corn puree serving as the butter. The garlic was intriguing — it was definitely garlic, but when you tried to eat it, it just disappeared in your mouth, mostly air. We asked the guy exactly how they did it, and he said it was basically a foam, ground up garlic that had been puffed up into that shape. Very weird.

I also noticed, later on, that their courses followed the path of a day’s meals — we started off with breakfast, moved on to some lunch-style meals, and then went to more dinner-based meals, and then dessert. At the time, that wasn’t completely apparent (they brought out a new course whenever you finished the last one, so the whole meal took a total of about four hours), but looking back, there was a definite plan to the way the courses were laid out.

INSTANT risotto

This was one of the courses we liked the best — it was a risotto using jasmine rice in a parmesan cream sauce with bay scallops from Mexico and microarugula and basil (both of which were amazing — they grow microherbs and veggies right there on the property at Moto, we were told). The scallops, again, were terrific, and I don’t even usually like that kind of thing. But the rice was the best part — it was actually puffed, sort of like just-cooked rice crispies. So the idea was that you stirred it all together, and you could hear the rice popping and crackling with the cream, as they did the same thing in your mouth. It would have been a great dish with just the jasmine rice, but with all of the grains puffed up with texture, it was amazing.

Joanna is a vegetarian, and this was the first dish where they gave her something different. While we got those scallops, she got these tiny mushrooms, which were unbelievably good.

They’re called hon-shimeji mushrooms, and they’re the best mushrooms I’ve ever tasted — when you bit down on them, they exploded in a burst of mushroomy flavor. You can barely tell from the picture above (most of these pictures were taken very quickly, as our mouths were watering on all of these courses as soon as the plates hit the table), but they were a beautiful brown which blended perfectly with the parmesan cream and rice when it all mixed together. Just beautiful.

GRUYERE & onions

This is Moto’s take on french onion soup — they actually served us a platter with a puffed onion ring and a smear of melted gruyere cheese along with some precisely cooked onions, and then they poured the hot soup into the bowl. As the soup hit the onion ring (they called it a baguette), it too melted in with the cheese and the onions, and it was all great. This was another one of my favorites.

Jason found it really interesting — he never really liked french onion soup, but he liked this one, and when I asked him what was different, he said that it lacked the greasiness that most soups like this have (with the cheese and the onions, you can probably imagine why). But this one was different, and we talked for a little while about how trying the absolute best of a type of food can make you like almost all versions of it — having some really amazing sushi, for example, can make you like some lesser sushi as well. Having the best of something makes you look at even lesser versions of it in a different light, lets you process it in a different way. “It gives you a vocabulary for it,” Jason said. “A way of expressing an idea that you didn’t have before.” Something tame and casual like this, french onion soup, served in such an enticing way, would bring us back to this meal every time we had it again.

HOUSE-made pequin capon

This, if you can believe it, is their version of buffalo wings. The meat on top there is capon, which is apparently a castrated chicken (didn’t know that while I was eating it, and while it was good and well-cooked, it definitely didn’t surprise me as much as the scallops and shrimp earlier in the meal did). Underneath it was what they called a celery confit and some pureed celery roots. The most interesting part of the meal was the edible paper included with it — it had buffalo sauce flavoring on it, so you’d eat some of the paper, and then add some meat and celery, and the overall impression was of a pretty tame buffalo wing. The paper was strange stuff — you’d put it in your mouth and it wouldn’t melt, but it would sort of fall apart. It wasn’t actually paper, either — it sort of flaked apart. But it did taste like buffalo sauce, and the overall impression was of a pretty good recreation. Not my favorite, but an interesting idea.

Joanna got some veggies instead.

CUBAN cigar

This was probably the most fun course we got — I had seen a Cuban pork sandwich mentioned on the menu earlier, and was extremely excited to try it (I had my first Cuban sandwich a few weeks ago and it was great). But when the sandwich actually showed up, it was in an ashtray, and they’d taken away our utensils, so we had to literally eat these edible cigars. The wrapping was collard greens, the label was edible paper, the tobacco inside was actually a tasty bit of pork shoulder, with a little red pepper puree on the end to make it seem just lit. The ash was probably the most interesting stuff — it was black and white sesame seeds, so we ended up dipping the “cigar” in the “ash,” and of course we were surprised just how good it tasted.

We had to have fun with this one, of course.

REUBEN lasagna

We were now clearly working our way up to dinner — this was probably the most substantial of all the dishes we’d had so far (even though it looks pretty simple above). This is a traditional ruben sandwich — beef brisket, a pickle concoction, and caroway seed dough — made up to look like a little cut of lasagna, with all of the ingredients layered out. The brisket was incredibly good, and the dough was even better. That is a potato chip standing upright, just enough to give that flavor with the sandwich, and that’s “russian sauce” (whatever that is — it was awesome) covering the whole thing. Jason was pretty astute with this one — he said he smelled dill in that powder on the side, but didn’t recognize it as the herb. When we asked the waiter what it actually was, he said they’d sprinkled dill pollen on the plate. Sneaky, and good call for Jason.

Joanna’s dish was completely different — she got this little potted plant to eat.

The “dirt” was actually what they called “balsamic dirt,” which doesn’t actually tell us what it was, although it did have an earthy flavor and a grit that did make it seem very dirtlike. There were more mushrooms in there, as well as more microarugula and some edible newspaper. All the way on the bottom (you can see one sneaking through the top there) were edible packing peanuts — white truffles puffed up. Joanna loved those.

MEXICAN cannoli

I thought our dessert had arrived, but I was wrong, of course — this cannoli was actually a duck taquito. The pastry shell was a corn tortilla, with a filling of duck confit, and sour cream serving as the cream imposter. That’s jalapeno powder on the cannoli itself, and what looks like chocolate sauce is actually mole. Our waiter said they liked to call it the mole cannoli — cute. My mind had a really tough time getting around this one for some reason — the dish itself was very excellent, as all of the flavors went very well together and everything was cooked exactly right. But even as they explained the meal to us and even as I tasted the food itself, I couldn’t get around the idea that I was supposed to be eating pastry. For some reason I dived right in on the cigar, but on this one, my mind got stuck in between the two tastes.

Joanna had something called a SHABUccino:

It looked like coffee, sugar, and cream, but by now (we were old hands at this point) we knew it wasn’t that. It was actually a Japanese hot dish called shabu-shabu, with peas, asparagus and potatoes in a hot broth, along with more of those mushrooms (I personally think they heard us raving about how good the mushrooms were, so they kept showing up in the meals again). The sugar cubes were actually pressed oil powder — they were weird to taste, but I think the idea was to drop them in the soup and let them roam around in there for a bit.

We got an extra course in here (the restaurant was kind of empty that evening, so they pulled out a few courses for us from the 20 course menu):

ARNOLD palmer

An Arnold Palmer is a drink (named after the golfer) that consists of half iced tea and half lemonade, and this one was pretty simple — instead of serving them mixed, they served us two ice pops and it was up to us to eat them together. No alcohol, and this one was so simple it was more of a palate cleanser in between dinner and dessert anyway.

HAPPY face

Joanna and Jason were most excited about this title, and I don’t think they were disappointed when it showed up: it was indeed a happy face. The face itself was a passion fruit sorbet, and you can’t see it in the picture, but it sat on a little bit of coconut cream which was, as you might imagine, terrific. I was amazed at how right they got the temperature — it was still frozen, but just melted enough that you could put your fork straight through it. The rest of the spread on the plate is a strawberry and blueberry puree with more coconut powder to mix in with it.

CORN cake

This was probably my favorite dessert of the evening and I’m not a huge fan of corn. It was a corn cake (as the name implies), but again I was amazed as just how perfectly cooked it was — the outside was warm and crusty, and the inside was warm and moist. That’s a sweet tea foam on top (Joanna was pretty delighted to see that — she had actually read a book on molecular gastronomy, and foam is a big deal in there apparently), and then there was candied corn and (I believe) peaches on the side. I wasn’t too thrilled about the candied corn (though we realized that after nine courses, we’d suddenly become food critics — when the food first showed up we were just aghast at how good it was, and now, nine courses in, we felt experienced enough to debate and second guess what they were doing), but the cake was amazing.

MILK CHOCOLATE forms, BURGER with ketchup, and ACME s’mores

We got a three-fer at the very end of the meal — the milk chocolate forms was the only thing on our original menu, but they shared the other two courses from the 20 course menu with us anyway. The milk chocolate forms was — well, I’m not sure quite what it was. At this point, I was just too full and too overwhelmed to take worthwhile notes. But it was tasty — the impression they said they wanted to give was of a malted milk ball, and we got it.

The bomb on the other end was a “smore bomb” — they came around with a small torch and lit the “fuse” on all of our bombs. The fuse itself was actually puffed marshmellow, and then we were instructed to eat the whole thing in one bite, at which point it blew up into a caramel-y liquid taste that was meant to serve as graham cracker, along with the chocolate coating and the burnt marshmellow flavor. I can’t judge whether or not it tasted exactly like a smore (again, at this point I was pretty overwhelmed with flavors), but it was good.

And finally, the little burger was one of the weirdest experiments we saw all night. It was a burger designed to taste like a banana split, with banana puree serving as the burger, some ice cream in there, some cherries for ketchup, and a tiny piece of iceberg lettuce just for effect. I didn’t really get a banana taste from it, though — it was more strange just to see the tiny little burger, no matter what it was made of. Jason largely enjoyed it. Get it? Largely?

And with that, we were done. It was an incredible meal, obviously. It was just amazing how much thought and time went into all aspects of the presentation, not just in the way things were cooked and the taste, but into the little plays on the different flavors and how the food looked and felt and smelled. You’d think that they’d have to compromise in some way while balancing taste and looks (no way, would I have thought, would you make a dish that looks that much like a cannoli but tastes that much like a taquito), but there were no compromises at all — they really reached far on both taste and presentation and with few exceptions they hit it out of the park every time.

It was strange how this meal affected the rest of my eating habits, too — the few days before and after I really found myself considering what I was putting in my mouth: how it was made, where it came from, and even what my own perceptions of it were like. And since I’ve been to Moto I’ve done more research on restaurants and food, and I’ve already found a few more places (in Paris and London, though I’m sure I’ll find something good in LA, too) that I can’t wait to check out.

Incredible meal, and what a strange and interesting way of looking at food and all of the various social and traditional (and technological) implications we place on it.

My sometime podcast takes a look at a few recent stories that have piqued my interest. Enjoy!

-Burger King workers are cheating the drive-through timer systems.
-Why so many celebrity deaths lately?
-Augmented Reality squeezed into a contact lens. And here’s some info about Dead Space — if you like survival horror games I highly recommend it, and even if you don’t (I personally don’t), it’s worth a playthrough.
--The Washington Post’s WebCom comments system. Surely we can do better, no?
-Kevin Mitnick is in trouble with AT&T, but for the opposite of what you expect: he’s being hacked.

 
icon for podpress  The Modern World, episode 10: Play Now | Play in Popup

I am so sorry that I haven’t gotten a new Modern World up lately — I meant to do one last weekend, but got hit with a cold, and my voice kind of exploded. First it got all gravelly, which was cool, but would have hurt me to do a whole show, and then it got all nasal, which was just annoying — you wouldn’t have wanted to listen to a whole podcast of it. But it’s getting back to normal now, so next weekend I will hopefully be able to make a podcast. I’ve got some fun things to talk about.

Meanwhile, I thought the last Twitter Q&A was fun, so here’s another one. Plus, I have a lot more followers since I went to BlizzCon a little while ago (welcome to my world, suckers!), so there are some new questioners in the mix, along with some old Twitter friends.

@Sylus had a bunch of quick questions: “boxers or briefs? Football or baseball? The instance or how I wow? @randydeluxe or @extralife ?????”

1) My favorite answer to the “boxers or briefs” question is: Depends. HA!

2) I have been following baseball this year, and really enjoying it (though my choice of following the Cubs has panned out to more depression than exaltation — I should have seen that coming). But football is my favorite sport: Fall is my favorite season, I played football in high school (left tackle, and I was horrible at it), and I love going to football games in November and December — wrapping up in the cold and watching gigantic guys in even bigger pads duke it out over 100 yards. I’ve always been a big guy, and football is the sport for me.

3) Truth be told, I’ve probably listened to more of How I WoW than The Instance, and only one of them has had me on, not to mention that Shawn Coons and I rode rollercoasters at Disneyland last week, and talked religion while waiting for Space Mountain, so I have to go with How I WoW. Though I picked the wrong horse — apparently since Patrick is now working for Blizzard, he can’t do the show any more, and I got the impression from Shawn that he was going to call it for a while. So I guess I’ll start listening to The Instance more now.

4) Randy Deluxe seems like an awesome guy who does a lot of great things very well, but he and I have had only the briefest of contact, so I only know the guy through his tweets and the clips I’ve heard of him on the show. Scott Johnson is definitely an awesome guy who definitely does a lot (a lot) of things very well, so I’m going with him. Plus, as my grandfather once told me, never piss off a cartoonist. Wise words.

@Savanth asks “do you play any non wow games? shooters, rts’s, etc? if so what are they?”

I think this question was asked last time. Lately, I’m playing Henry Hatsworth on the DSi, and really enjoying it — probably liking the puzzle side of it a bit more than the platformer side. I recently bought both ‘Splosion Man and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on Xbox Live, and I’ve determined that I’m going to finish those both before I pick up Shadow Complex, which I heard is great. And though I haven’t yet finished Dead Space, I picked up Batman: Arkham Asylum a few days after it came out, and just demolished it — I blew through normal mode in about two days, and am almost done with all of the Riddler goals, at which point I’ll probably try to get Perfect Knight on all of the challenge modes, and then start over again on Hard mode. I am such a huge Batman fan and I’ve been waiting so long for someone to make a game that features him and is awesome that I’m just eating Batman:AA up.

@cardfrek (who was also with us at Disneyland — we were so much fun we got the guy sick!) asks “are you excited about your impending move to Los Angeles?”

Yes, very. And scared. And weirded out — I am planning to move to LA in a few weeks, and it just occurred to me the other day that I don’t really have any plans after the move. Besides for work and the usual getting up and existing every day, my life is one big blank after I go out to California. Hopefully I’ll find enough cool things out there to fill it with.

@Ninthbatter wants to know: “what is mike schramm’s kryptonite?”

Nothing’s stopped me yet, and I’ve never actually encountered kryptonite, so I’m assuming it’s kryptonite. If I really did have a substance that stopped me in my tracks, I would probably keep that information a very closely guarded secret, no?

@geekgirldiva asks: “Hmmm…What’s your worst WoW experience?”

Probably a bad PuG. Every once in a while you have a group that you know is wrong from the beginning, where you know that you’re wasting your time, but you really want to run this dungeon, so you go on in anyway. And then the warrior turns out to not know how to hold aggro, the rogue is still in blues and isn’t nearly turning out the DPS you’ll need to finish the last boss, and the priest is going /afk every five minutes. It’s at that point that, if you’re a jerk, you just pull the plug on your computer, and then log back in about 1/2 hour later going “Sorry guys, my Internet went down, did you finish the instance?” Or, if you’re a sucker like me, you stick around for the few hours of wipes and eventually call it on the second boss without actually having gotten any loot.

@maryvarn, who makes the terrific NPC comic that as of this writing supposedly features art drawn by kittens, wants to know: “is there fog in London? Mad Men says no, Professor Layton says yes. I don’t know who to believe.”

I have never unfortunately been to London, but most of my knowledge of the place comes from my very old and very deep love of the old Sherlock Holmes stories. I distinctly remember — I believe it was in the Adventure of the Speckled Band, one of my favorites — them talking about a dark fog rolling in at night. So I will say yes, there is fog in London.

Plus, Professor Layton is a smart guy, and Mad Men, as compelling as they are, are usually wrong about lots of things — they all smoke like chimneys, and many of them are racists and/or misogynists. I’ll tell you something that’s never wrong, though: Christina Hendricks dressed up the way she is on the show. I have never wanted to be a pen so much. Her accordion playing is divine, and I hope something bad happens to that jerk of a fiance.

Also, for the Mad Men fans, I am happy to tell you that Mad Men Illustrated is back for season 3. Spoilers if you haven’t seen the show, but if you have, enjoy.

Finally, @dougabbott asks: “PB&J or PB&Banana. You can only pick one!”

I went over to the Lincoln Park Zoo the other day, just a 10-minute walk from my apartment here in Chicago, for two reasons: one, I wanted to get some fresh air after spending the last few days working in the apartment, and two, I figured I should start running around and doing a final visit of the local attractions before I leave. While there, I decided to stop into this little cafe they’ve installed above the main gift shop, and I was surprised to see that, among the way too expensive organic paninis they were selling, there was in fact a peanut butter and banana panini. It was $8, and definitely not worth it, so I just ended up getting a little ice cream to eat, but I was very surprised to see that there, of all places. I’ve never had a peanut butter and banana sandwich, but I think if I ever did try one, an organic panini from the cafe at the Lincoln Park Zoo would not be a bad way to do it.

That said, if I have to choose only one to eat ever again, I have to go with peanut butter and jelly. I don’t always pick the safe choice (in fact, more often than not, I do the opposite, to the detriment of my health, reputation, or public image), but in this case, I’m going with what I know.

Thanks for all the questions everybody, and thanks for following me on Twitter, both new and old followers. Look for a new Modern World episode this weekend.




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